#BuiltByImmigrants: Stories from Texas Entrepreneurs

Immigrants drive innovation in America. Iconic companies like Google, Dropbox, & eBay were started by foreign born entrepreneurs. It’s easy to see how America benefits from immigrant ingenuity since 42% of Forbes’ Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants.

However, misconceptions about the contributions of immigrants fuel many arguments against reform. Without immigration, the United States wouldn’t be the entrepreneurial center of the world.

FWD. us is challenging the narrative through our digital story sharing tool, #BuiltByImmigrants.

#BuiltByImmigrants provides a platform for immigrants to tell their stories about the difficulties they faced while trying to immigrate to the U.S., and their significant contributions to our country. Today we’re highlighting two Texas stories– Guillermo Vela andClaudia Mendoza.

Guillermo Vela
According to the Immigration Policy Center, 24.9 percent of Texas business owners were foreign-born, garnering a total income of $10 billion dollars, in 2010. Entrepreneurs from around the world have made Texas their home to start and grow their businesses, especially in STEM fields. One such entrepreneur is Guillermo Vela, CEO of Nebulab Technologies.

Vela is originally from Mexico, and moved to the United States at an early age.  He later attended Johns Hopkins University, one of America’s most distinguished research institutions. “For decades, America’s research system has successfully attracted some of the worlds best and brightest,” says Vela. “Men and women from all backgrounds and nationalities have joined us in solidifying America’s place as the world’s leader in research, and it’s the American people who are first to benefit from it.”

Mentored by renowned neurosurgeon and former undocumented immigrant Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa (Dr. Q), Vela saw first hand how immigrants are at the cutting edge of innovation and medical breakthroughs in the U.S. He also saw many of his talented peers leave America after graduate school or college because of immigration system bureaucracy. Immigrants with STEM degrees are nearly 50% more likely to start their own business after graduation, however Vela describes his classmates creating jobs in Dubai & Tel Aviv instead of the U.S.

After Johns Hopkins, Vela headed to Geekdom in San Antonio and founded Nebulab Technologies — a platform to store, organize, and share scientific data. The startup produces a web application to expedite the rate of scientific discovery by allowing higher standards of collaboration, transparency, and research efficiency.

Today Vela is working to change the future of scientific research and he believes the U.S. is the best place to try to do so.

Claudia Mendoza
When Claudia Mendoza wrote her story for #BuiltByImmigrants, her family was anxiously waiting to find out if they would be deported back to Venezuela, a country overturned by civil unrest.

Political instability and deteriorating living conditions made life harder for Claudia and her husband, Juan. They were robbed at gunpoint, had friends and family members killed from unnecessary violence, and worked for a company that lost money as a result of being nationalized. After dozens of employees were terminated for participating in anti-government protests, Claudia and Juan realized their future lay outside of their homeland.

Claudia and Juan are both engineers by trade, and in 2011 Juan obtained his MBA from Michigan State University at the top of his class. Immediately upon graduating, Juan was offered a job with American Airlines in Dallas under an Optional Practical Training work permit.

While American Airlines sponsored Juan for a H-1B visa, the visa cap was met and surpassed a mere 5 days after applications opened. Out of the 170,000+ applicants that applied, only 85,000 received visas.

While waiting for a visa solution, Claudia and Juan started a life in America; they welcomed their first child and knew they couldn’t return to Venezuela. Despite being a high-skilled professional educated in America, Juan’s H-1B application was rejected. Since Claudia’s status depended on her husband, she must find a way for her US citizen child and family to stay in America.

Stories like these are why FWD.us is committed to passing immigration reform. Hear more stories and find out what you can do to help by joining FWD.us and Launch DFW on August 14th for a #BuiltByImmigrants event.

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